As we start to wind down the year, I wanted to focus on fear. Yup…fear! This could be the thing that launches you into a brighter 2021! You might be thinking of finally starting that business, or maybe you’re still trying to convince yourself to create a website, a podcast, or start showing your face more on social media. Whatever decision is currently on your plate, I’m sure that today’s episode will shed clarity on how you can channel that fear into fueling your dreams!
good fear, bad fear
Some fears should not be ignored. For example, I say it’s wise to hold on to the fear of fast-moving vehicles or anything that might genuinely be dangerous. Those fears were given to us by our all-mighty creator to keep us safe and alive. Instead let’s focus on the fears that hold us back from achieving more significant things.
fear or discomfort
First, let’s make the distinction between fear and discomfort. Fear and discomfort are NOT the same things. I think too often we say things like I have a fear of pubic speaking, or I have a fear of failure. Again, having specific fears is natural and even life-saving, but the idea of calling your discomfort “fear” can become difficult to untangle. If I allow myself to say I have a fear of public speaking, I am inadvertently disguising my discomfort as something that has a rightful place in my life.
If I take that fear and shift it to the discomfort column, I have now placed it into an area where I can create changes and growth. All too many times we hear someone say that they have a fear of public speaking and we tend to respect that as much as someone saying that they have a fear of heights. In reality even fearing heights can be taken to the extreme, but one is physical and the other is more about being uncomfotrable.
How you tackle discomfort is entirely a personal journey. I’ll give you some examples to provide more clarity on the topic. I have found that at times, I jump into discomfort head first in some areas of life, quite literally. Othertimes I mull over a decision for a very long time.
When we visited Cancun a few years ago, we took an excursion to the cenotes. I had a few questions for our guide as we peered off the edge into this massive sinkhole filled with crystal clear water. Is it safe to jump from this height? Is it deep enough where I will not touch the bottom? Have other people jumped from this precise spot lately? The clear waters were so pristine that the limestone bottom looked like it was no more than a foot below the water’s surface. Since Alejandro is a trusted friend and guide, I took the plunge after he answered yes to my questions. In this instance I had the sound reassurance that I needed, and I had faith in my friendship with Alejandro.
This fear is the right kind to have, but once my objections were put to rest the fear turned into butterflies in my stomach. I no longer feared death or injury; instead I felt that ever so familiar sensation of flutters and an intense amount of adrenaline. Let me just explain again that if I had no fear, I might have just leaped 12′ into a foot of water. The initial fear provoked me to ask the necessary questions that allowed me to make the right decision. There will be times when fear needs to stay in that column, and that’s okay.
The idea here is to dissect why you have the initial response of not wanting to do something. If you have a great idea that you would love to bring to market, but you fear that it won’t succeed, you need to ask the right questions to get yourself to feel comfortable with leaping off that proverbial ledge. If you just tell yourself that you don’t think anyone will buy your product, that might be all it takes to keep your concept in the idea state.
Let’s take a look at how to shift fear to discomfort. You can start by testing your idea. A lot of times this might mean just mentioning it to friends that you feel might also benefit from your product. In past episodes, I have featured guests who lived through a life event or experience that fell short of their expectations. That was proof that there was a hole in the market that needed filling. If you’re able to create a prototype or example of your product, try doing that and share it with the world. Show it off to see what response you get.
Find the right audience
Find a FB group that shares your same concerns and share it with them. Let’s say you have an idea for gluten-free play-doh; talking to your gluten-free friends or joining an online group could be your most straightforward and quickest way to bring an idea to the surface. Surround yourself with your ideal market and take note of the responses that you get. Aim high and talk to other small business owners to get their perspective and learn from their pitfalls. They too were once nervous about their first step.
Once you dissect your fear into concerns, you can now begin to tackle each line item and start to take action.
The best thing that you can do is to sit with your fear and ask these questions. Why am I afraid of this? What can I do to prevent that fear from coming true? What would happen if I did this? What can I do to fix the problem this might create? How can I break down this fear into smaller pieces? Keep asking enough questions to get to the point where you can tackle each item one by one.
Fear can also disguise itself as being ashamed. Now I get it; none of us want to look foolish in this very public and visible world. But I can promise you that sitting in the discomfort of feeling silly is far less painful than living a life full of what-ifs or I-should-haves. In every letter that I send out to potential guests, I mention that starting a business takes courage and endurance and that I’d love to capture that in the interview. The reason why I use those words is because that is the naked truth. You need to have the courage to get up and fall in front of a crowd, get up, and try again. The fear of not getting up after a fall is the very thing that should motivate you to try again.
A Funny Story...
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Austria to film for the Special Olympics. This alone was an experience of a lifetime. Little did I know that part of this experience included interviewing Tim Shriver. My friend and boss Greg decided to just spring this little tid bid on me last minute. I panicked! I don’t know what on earth came over me, but I eventually decided I would just have to do this. I was sweating profusely, I could hardly come up with two good questions to ask, I felt dizzy, then I told myself, “oh well…good for you…you feel all of that, but just do it.” So I did.
I would love to say that it was the interview of my life, but in reality what happened still makes me cringe today. We had a very short window for this interview. We found Tim just before he was to play a game of hockey with some of the participants. We shook hands, I got into position, Greg started filming, and I asked my first question. I don’t think I heard the answer. My ears felt like I had cotton in them. But somehow life has a way of still pushing forward, so I asked the next question. I don’t remember what I asked, but as I listened and watched him reply my mind quickly raced to who Tim Shriver was…he’s a Kennedy!!! At that precise moment, when my brain became enlightened, it sent a very odd distress signal to my upper lip. My face muscles decided to misbehave, and I felt my upper lip quivering as I smiled in response to question number 2. I couldn’t stop this from happening! I’m sure the fear in my eyes was painfully obvious, and all I could do to stay alive was bite my lip and nod. Luckily I was off-camera for this interview. I honestly thought I was going to pass out!
I couldn’t ask my questions fast enough, and it was a good thing that we were all on a tight schedule. Although the interview was by far one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life…I survived it. I’m not sure how the wires got uncrossed in my head, but my lip no longer quivers when I interview an artist.
I now genuinely believe that the only way to get past discomfort is to go through it. If you could go back and think of all of the times that you failed, were embarrassed, shy, or just uncomfortable, but got past it…what was the result? In each instance you grew, even if it’s to confirm that you definitely don’t want to do that again. Fear prevents action. Knowing is growing. Discomfort is the test. If you can feel discomfort, survive it, and eventually conquer it, that my friend is where you’ll see the most significant change.
You won’t die of embarrassment; you won’t fade away from blushing; you will, however, slowly start doubting yourself and your strength if you let a few butterflies hold you down. So I ask you, who is more powerful, your will to face your discomfort or a few butterflies?